11+ signs of iron deficiency that could cause health issues

Iron deficiency anemia is the result of a lack of hemoglobin. When a body doesn’t have enough iron to produce hemoglobin, red blood cells can’t carry oxygenated blood to the rest of the body – which is what hemoglobin allows them to do. Someone can become anemic through chronic blood loss, a lack of nutritional iron, pregnancy or an inability to absorb the iron. Chronic blood loss includes menstruation and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Foods that add iron to a diet include lean red meat, poultry, beans and iron-enriched cereal, rice and pasta, as well as supplements. Talk to a doctor before taking any supplements.

1. Exhaustion
Feeling tired all the time no matter how much sleep you get may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Keep a sleep log to see if you are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night for an adult. If you sleeping that long but still feel tired all day, visit your doctor.

2. Lack of appetite
With exhaustion comes a lack of energy, which could mean a lack of appetite. Even if you are not hungry, try to eat something high in iron to see if your body positively responds with an upswing in energy after several days.

3. Pale skin
Pale skin is the result of reduced blood flow and oxygenated blood cells. Abnormally pale skin may be all over the body or just in one or two locations, such as the face or arms.

4. Peeling or brittle nails
Like skin, nails need oxygen to be healthy. A lack of hemoglobin means oxygenated blood cells are not traveling where they need to go. If that’s the case, then nails won’t be healthy.

5. Cold extremities
You may feel perfectly fine, but if your hands and feet frequently are cold – and you don’t have other medical conditions such as diabetes – you may be anemic.

6. Unnatural “food” cravings
Cavings for food that have no nutritional value, such as dirt and starch, may indicate iron deficiency anemia, according the Mayo Clinic. It’s best not to indulge in these cravings and to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

7. General weakness
Tiredness aside, a general feeling of weakness may be a symptom of iron deficiency. If you’re struggling to lift items that aren’t heavy or you become exhausted just by walking, check with a doctor to have your iron levels tested.

8. Lung and heart issues
Difficulty breathing and/or rapid or irregular heartbeat may be signs of anemia. A lack of oxygen in the blood causes the heart to work harder.

9. Headaches and dizziness
Signs of anemia may include dizziness, feeling lightheaded and/or having frequent headaches.

10. Tongue ulcers
Iron also can affect the tongue. Low hemoglobin amounts may result in a pale tongue, much like iron deficiency leads to pale outer skin. A lack of iron may produce mouth ulcers or cracks around the mouth.

11. Delayed growth in children
Iron deficiency anemia can lead to stunted growth in children. Anemia also can lead to developmental delays. Consult with your pediatrician if you have concerns.